Federal Agency Seeks to Increase Racial Diversity in the Environmental Sciences

There are very few African Americans who study in the environmental sciences. In 2006, the latest year for which statistics are available, there were only eight African Americans who earned a Ph.D. in environmental science in the entire country. During many other years, there were even fewer blacks.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that it has an extremely difficult time finding African Americans for research, outreach, and administrative positions. The EPA is now partnering with several historically black colleges and universities to increase the number of African Americans who will pursue studies in environmental science. The agency is providing a grant to Norfolk State University in Virginia to enable the university to conduct science workshops for local high school students with the goal of getting them interested in the field at an early age.

At nearby Hampton University, the EPA is providing funds and access to agency computer models that will enable graduate students to track the effect of air pollutants on weather and climate change.

The EPA believes that the small number of black specialists in the field hampers efforts to convey to the African-American community the environmental dangers that may be present in their own communities.